The beginning of the school year is always an exciting and exhausting time. It seems like no matter how many things I get done, my to-do list just grows! I think it is important to make sure that you don't create teacher burnout before the new school year starts too. If you go into it exhausted you are in for a long year. I know that it makes me a better teacher when I go into my classroom refreshed and excited. I also try to spend as much time with my family as possible, because the first few weeks of school are such a whirl wind. I love being with my students, but I miss the snuggles from my own little monsters (said with the utmost affection).
Part of the reason there is so much to do, is that the first few weeks seem to always set the tone for what the students will expect for the rest of the school year. The relationship and climate you create with the students can make or break (or at least complicate) any classroom. Our brain works better when it's happy; and can only reach it's full learning potential when it is in a safe environment. Read more about that here. An important goal for me for the start of the year (and all year really) is that I want the students to feel joy and confidence in my room and in their language learning journey.
What do I do the first few weeks?
The first few weeks of school, my focus is on the following: building relationships with students, creating a warm and safe classroom environment, setting expectations to the school year, and getting the kids excited about Spanish. My favorite quotation about education is "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." (Socrates). During these first few weeks, I want all of my students excited about the year to come, and ready to learn in a safe environment. What exactly do I do? Read on for a brief description of what I do with each grade level. I'm working on making units for the first few weeks of elementary (with all of the below worksheets available) . However, I'm a perfectionist and want them to be my best work, so it is taking me more time than I had anticipated; I will blog about them when I am done!
When (if) you read through the below lesson please take the amount I complete in each lesson with a grain of salt. I am an over planner, I like to have lots planned, and what often ends up happening, is that what I think will be done in 5 lessons takes 7 or 8 lessons. The lessons are only meant to progress if students are ready to do so.
I see my Kindergarten students at the end of their day. Some of them are away from Mom and Dad for the first time in their life; all of them are exhausted. I want their first Spanish experience to create happy memories and confidence in their abilities. I want them to LOVE Spanish and be ready for more.
Lesson 1 Kindergarten:
At this point Kindergarteners are close to the limit of their attention span for this point in the year. If they are still paying close attention I introduce them to my "friends" Pablo and Clara (see pictures below). I couldn't tell you exactly where the names come from. I made them up several years ago, mid-activity when a student asked me what the puppet's were named. There is no way I can change them now though because the students LOVE these puppets. They have taken on a whole life of their own. This is the first time students get to meet either of them. I introduce Pablo in the TL. "Here is my friend, Pablo!". Pablo wants to practice saying "hello" and "goodbye" in Spanish. The rest of the class is a giggle fest. "Pablo" pops up in silly places as the kids close their eyes. Sometimes he is under a desk, sometimes he is sitting next to a student (or on their cabeza), sometimes he is up in a tree. When the kids spot him we all yell (I'll be honest it's loud) "Hola" and then he does something silly and says "adiós" as he disappears behind my back to hide again. I could stretch this out the whole hour (but I don't ). This game usually fills up any remaining time the first day. If they need something else we have a dance party to "Unicornio Espacial", the only 'required' move is making a unicorn horn with their hands if they hear the word in the song. As students leave Pablo and I say "adiós" on the way out. I often get enthusiastic "adiós's" back, but I always get big smiles by this point. :)
Lesson 2 Kindergarten:
I start introducing the following word: salta, escribe, anda/camina, mira, señala, toca, se levanta, se sienta, rápido/despacio, una vez, dos veces, levanta/baja, aplaude, toma, escucha.
I also do what I call a 'soft' pre-test. My district requires data, and this means pre-tests (which I don't want to do with K), here is what I do instead. Before trying to connect any of the above words to meaning, I start with the first word and say does anyone know what 'salta' means? If they do know it, I record it quickly on my attendance grid(probably only native speakers). If not, then I show them the slideshow image below and do the action. Now all of my detectives have it (and I have my first point of data, none or only one or two students showed understading). Next all the students do the motion as I act it out. I only introduce about half these words at once, using the same basic process for each word. Then we do silly things like "Follow the leader" and whichever of these words the leader acts out, I say, and everyone else does (charades, or pictionary work too, depending on your group). You can also combine the words to do silly things, make silly stuffed animals do actions with the words, etc.
At this point we start filling out a very basic "Todo Sobre Mí". I give them the below worksheet. The first day I ONLY have them work the side on the left below with the boy and the girl. My goal is for them to try to write their name, to draw a picture of their self, and to practice some frequently used vocal (me llamo) (soy/chico/chica). I left the faces blank on purpose. Those that are fast processors can draw faces on them. They can also circle the word that matches their self (chico or chica). The second half of the worksheet (on the right) is for a different day. I say "goodbye" again at the door with Pablo and Clara (and collet the worksheet)..
What's next? Over the next few weeks we will continue to review/acquire the above vocabulary through games, and songs. We will also learn to count to 10 through music and counting a lot of silly things, including "bugs" that we hunt for with flashlights. I introduce the colors (oso café), go on a nature walk to draw the colors, and start our first few stories (one of them is about chicks, which gives us a chance to dance to Pollito Pío; and watch last year's Kindergarten Music Videos). Yes, I am crazy enough to make 20 fan music videos each year with my 500 students. It is a high light of the year for them, and thanks to a tip from Leslie Davison this year at IFLT I have ideas to make them even better next year. I even play Spanish Snowball tag with all 500 kids at one point (and then I crawl home afterwards and don't get off the floor all weekend). ;)
The intention when I started this blog was to cover all the grade levels in one post, but since just the few lessons of Kindergarten took me a week to put together, one at a time. More soon.... what is your favorite activity the first few weeks of school?
Entering my 13th year in the classroom; I am a TPRS/CI Elementary Spanish Teacher. Passionate about TPRS/CI, Brain based learning, and using technology to bring the world to our students, and our students to the world.